Learning with Preschoolers

Guest Post by Faith
~”I want to work with my toddler and preschooler at home, but I don’t know anything about teaching and I am not creative! What should I do?”
~“How do you keep them [preschoolers] interested but not go crazy with preparation?”

I’d like to answer these questions by looking at three areas of truth about children. They will be starting points in thinking about what activities would be successful learning experiences for your child. However, I am not an ultimate authority. I am constantly learning myself, but I hope this information will point you along in this journey of being your child’s teacher.

The first truth is children love to play and be playful.
If you ask your child what they want to do, they’ll probably say, “Play with me!”  Amazingly, young children learn best through play. What can a child learn through play? The list seems endless, but I’ll hit on a few main points:

1) They develop large motor skills during active play. (Kicking, running, climbing, dancing)
2) They develop fine motor skills. (Manipulating objects, pincer grasp)
3) Dramatic play develops their imagination as well as demonstrates knowledge of         something previously learned, like practicing a skill they’ve seen a parent do.
4) Play is a time to practice how language works. (Conversation, songs, Nursery Rhymes)  My daughter, Abigail, loves when we have “Silly Songs with Mommy” time. I am terrible at singing and at making up songs, but Abigail loves the experimentation with language and rhyming that we do together. It’s silly!
5) Play is a time to see that reading books is fun. (Plus they develop many pre-reading skills).

Ask yourself, “How can I be playful with my child? What does he enjoy? What do I enjoy? What could we enjoy together?”

Faiths daughter abigail smells flower

The second truth is children love to touch!
One of the hardest tasks for a child to learn is not to touch. “Don’t touch your brother! Keep your hands to yourself. Fold your hands in your lap. Don’t pick your nose. You don’t need to touch that right now!”  Why is this task difficult for a young child to learn? One reason is children learn through their senses: touching, tasting, seeing, smelling, and hearing. They explore and learn about the world around them through their senses. How can we use this knowledge to think of practical, simple activities our children would enjoy and learn from? They would enjoy experiencing:

1) Any type of manipulative:  sand, play dough, beans, rice (see, touch, taste, smell, and hear)
2) Musical instruments (see, touch, hear)
3) New and different foods (see, touch, taste, smell)
4) Nature:  visits to the park, zoo, pond, ocean, petting zoo, farm, city (see, hear, touch, smell)

Why is it important for children to explore the world around them? It gives a child a frame of reference with which to deal with and understand the world they live in, as well as developing language to talk about it.
Ask yourself, “How can I encourage my child to explore using his 5 senses?”

The third truth is children love to take part in their parents’ activities and chores.
As your child explores the world around them, invite him to be your helper! Wash the dishes together and allow your child to help! Clean together. Bake together. When you’re assembling a new bookshelf, allow your child to screw in as many screws as interests him. Count the screws. Write a shopping list together. Read your mail. Tell them about what you are reading and writing. Read it to them. Show them what you’re doing with your checkbook. Let them see the numbers and use it as an opportunity to talk about money and even tithing! Allow your child to pay the cashier when shopping. Let them tell you how to drive home. Sit them on your lap when you sew. Show them how the machine works.

Do you see that the key here is… ALLOW THEM or LET THEM? Our children are eager learners. We often need to slow down and include them in our activities. I feel this topic is the most important. It is also the one I need to work on the most. It is very easy to go through the day working by myself, but my daughter will not learn best this way. If we include our children in our daily activities, they can learn language and math skills, large and fine motor skills, expand their vocabularies, and much more.
Ask yourself, “What adult activity can my child do with me, that I would be okay with their help?”

(This is actually a two part series, which will continue next week with a wonderful list of ideas and suggestions for applying these truths with your children!)

Faith is a preschool teacher, mother to Abigail, and wife to Eric. She loves engaging with the preschool age through play and learning times. She will soon be starting a blog where she will dialogue about how God transforms lives, including her own, at .

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  1. This made me smile, especially the suggestion to let the child pay the cashier.
    This past week I took my sons out to a restaurant on my own (my husband is away with work for two weeks.) The boys are very young – 6 months and almost 2 years – however we had a great time together and just before the waiter came with the bill I gave my two year old my debit card and told him he could pay for our meal.
    When the waiter came he very proudly handed over the card and – unprompted – said “thank you.”
    I have found that giving him “adult” tasks (albeit ones that he is completely capable of doing) encourages him to act better.
    Great post!

  2. What a great post! Maria Montessori taught that a child will learn reading and math much easier if he or she first learns to master their own physical environment (which speaks to your third point!)

    If I could do it again, knowing what I now know, my daily goal would be to eventually get to the point that my kids were doing all my work ha ha!

    Seriously though the time spent teaching them to do household tasks is well invested! And every minute that they are “helping” you is one less minute they are destroying the house! It’s hard to see because it goes so slow when you let them help!

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